Skid must end

TODD SAELHOF -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 2:12 PM ET


 In the cruel numbers game that has haunted the Calgary Flames since they last celebrated a playoff berth, everybody thought seven was bad enough.

 As in the number of NHL seasons the club went without a playoff berth.

 But how about the nine years since they last won a post-season game at the Saddledome?

 And, more importantly, how about the 10 games, counting both regular season and playoffs, they've gone without a win at home against Vancouver?

 The Flames desperately want to snap both skids tonight to even up their best-of-seven first-round series with the Canucks.

 "It probably goes to show you we haven't done a good enough job in this building and we haven't done a good enough job against Vancouver in this building," said Flames defenceman Robyn Regehr after an off-day practice at the 'Dome yesterday. "We have to make it a hard place to play.

 "We've gotta be a lot better and more physical, especially on their top guys. And also, I don't think we did a great job defensively and in the neutral zone (in a 2-1 loss in Game 3 Sunday)."

 Anything to garner the victory will do.

 Fans already had their thirst quenched for playoff hockey Sunday night. Now, they're seeking a home win to end a playoff drought that dates back to May 15, 1995 -- a 5-0 win in Game 5 over the San Jose Sharks.

 The Canucks have been unbeatable here dating back to Dec. 29, 2000, when the Flames shut them out 5-0.

 This season, the Canucks went 2-0-1 at the 'Dome, counting a 4-4 draw Nov. 29, a 2-0 win Dec. 26 and a 3-1 triumph Jan. 3.

 "I don't think that has any bearing on anything," said Flames GM/head coach Darryl Sutter. "Our season started April 7."

 No matter, history has its place in the playoffs. If nothing else, it's given the Canucks a touch of confidence they can ride into tonight's critical fourth game of the series.

 "It's somewhere we feel pretty comfortable," said Canucks veteran Trevor Linden. "Not only playing in Calgary but playing on the road I think we're a pretty confident group. But for the last couple years, we've played extremely well here."

 "It is great and hopefully it gives us some confidence," agreed Canucks head coach Marc Crawford. "But I don't throw much stock into our record (in the 'Dome). We're not going to win unless we play a real spirited game. That's the key for us -- play spirited, play with energy and play the way we have to for a win."

 Like they did in Game 3, even if the Flames were just a goal away from forcing overtime.

 "We have to get a better start," Regehr said. "I believe if you look back at our record in the regular season, they outscored us by a huge margin in the first period (4-0 at the 'Dome and 8-1 in six games overall). And we can't have that. We need to come out and get ahead of them and establish what we need to do early in our game and that way we're on our game and going."

 Otherwise, the cruelest number of them all could be loss No. 11 and counting, putting even more pressure on a Game 6 in the 'Dome -- if the series even goes that far.


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